This is the first medal that Stephen Raw has produced for BAMS. It is the fruit of one of his collaborations with the poet Carol Ann Duffy. In the past Raw has created artwork inspired by Duffy’s critically acclaimed collection Rapture. When the book was launched on London’s Southbank, Raw had an exhibition and produced an animated version of some of her poems. The collection went on to win the prestigious T.S. Eliot prize, and it is one of those poems, ‘Hour’, that this medal memorialises. ‘Poetry is so often rewarding’, says Raw, ‘when working with language that someone has taken time, care and consideration in creating’.
It is ‘language-made-visible’ that is at the core of all of Raw’s work. In this medal, as with his other pieces, there is a celebration of the imagery of letters. His personal approach to text eschews mechanical typographic forms and allows a freedom to celebrate those arbitrary shapes called ‘letters’. As the poet laureate Andrew Motion observed when he opened Raw’s exhibition Memory Language, ‘Stephen practises an art which is as old as the hills, and yet makes it seem brand new … It slows down language so that we can dwell on it and in it, but also accelerates its passage into our heads and imaginations.’
Recently Raw worked again with Carol Ann Duffy on her lyrics for a new work: The Manchester Carols. Currently he is working on a commission from the Royal Opera House to design a stone celebrating the four founders of the Royal Ballet. He is also well-known as the cartographer who redrew The Lord of the Rings maps, for which he worked closely with Christopher Tolkien. Raw’s maps were commissioned by HarperCollins and have been used in all copies of the book since 1993; he continues to sell a limited edition of them by permission of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate. His work has been exhibited widely, in Germany, the USA, Italy, Ireland, Pakistan and throughout the UK. Currently he sits on the Royal Mint Design Advisory Committee. Raw moved to Manchester from London in 1973 for an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University and has lived there since save for two years lecturing at the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea.